Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2020

Thesis Advisor(s)

Bernard Grela

Honors Major

Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences


Communication Sciences and Disorders | Disability Studies | Speech and Hearing Science | Speech Pathology and Audiology


This study explored how communication disorders may impact listeners’ perception of guilt. More specifically, it looked at how visible communication disorders (e.g., stuttering) and invisible communication disorders (e.g., high functioning autism) are judged by the general public. 51 adults (18-71 years) participated in the study which asked them to view video recordings of narrative samples produced by an individual who stuttered (PWS), an individual with high-functioning autism (PHFA), and an individual with no communication disorder (PNCD). Participants were not informed of the individuals’ communication abilities (PWS, PHFA, or PNCD), but were told that one of the individuals had committed a crime prior to hearing the narratives. After viewing the narratives, participants filled out a questionnaire where they were asked to identify which individual committed the crime, as well as questions regarding trust, friendship and story accuracy. Results revealed that the PWS was selected least frequently as guilty, selected equal to the PHFA in desire to have as a friend, and selected the least frequently for being trusted the least. There were no differences between speakers on measures of story accuracy. The results of the study demonstrated elevated levels of leniency towards the PWS. This suggests that those with visible communication disorders are generally perceived as deserving of sympathy due to their impairment, while those with invisible communication disorders are perceived as no different from those without a communication disorder. This is important knowledge for how those with communication disorders are treated in the criminal justice system and extends to how those with communication disorders are treated in daily life.